Marvin Sparks caught up with 5-time Grammy award winner John Legend who returns to our ears with his infectious single 'Greenlight' [available from 6th October '08] and follow-up 2 multi-platinum albums, 'Evolver' [out on 20th October '08]
Marvin Sparks : What have you been up to since ‘Once Again’?
John Legend: First of all I went on tour - I went on tour for about a year and started working on the new album pretty much. It was a lot of fun to make and I worked with some great people and here we are, 'Evolver'.
Marvin Sparks : How have you as a person and artist evolved between albums?
John Legend: Well, I don't know if I learnt anything about myself but you just kind of grow as a person over the years and you just live life, have relationships, do what you got to do and you grow up. I feel like I keep learning from life, and each album is a reflection of where I am in life at the time.
Marvin Sparks : 'Once Again' was much more mature sounding compared with Get Lifted. How would you describe this one?
John Legend: Yeah, it was mellower and mature. This album is more up-tempo, electronic and more pop sounding.
Marvin Sparks : During time off you released our Estelle on your label?
John Legend: Yeah I released Estelle`s album on my label, HomeSchool, and its doing ok [laughs]
Marvin Sparks : What did you see in Estelle that they didn`t see over here?
John Legend: Well, I felt like she wasn`t fully realised by everybody. I felt like if we worked together we could make a great record and that`s what we did. We made one.
Marvin Sparks : As well as running your label you went to Africa for charity work, how was that experience?
John Legend: I went to Tanzania a few times and we`ve been working with an organisation called Millennium Promise. Millennium Promise runs programs throughout Africa in different villages helping people who are living in extreme poverty and I wanted help. I wanted to raise money to help fund the villages that they were working with and visit it and we started an organisation called the Show Me campaign.
Marvin Sparks : Bringing it up to current day, your album 'Evolver'. Tell us about the recording process of the new album.
John Legend: I worked in Atlanta, Miami and New York; it was just based on whatever writers and producers I was working with to meet them where they were working most of the time. I worked with Pharrell, Kanye [West], Andre 3000, Will.I.Am, Ne-Yo, and Supa Dups [Black Chiney]. We worked with a few people and everyone gave their input and did a great job.
Marvin Sparks : What can listeners expect to hear?
John Legend: I talk about relationships a lot and this album is no exception to that. This album definitely covered relationship issues from meeting a girl in the club, to breaking up, to morning sex; whatever floats your boat. This album`s got a lot on there.
Marvin Sparks : First single is 'Greenlight' with Andre 3000, how did that come about?
John Legend: I started writing with this guy named Rick Knowles. He played this guitar loop and I started singing [hums melody to chorus of 'Greenlight'] 'I'm ready to go right now'. [The melody] came to me, I wrote the song then we switched up the beat a little bit, sent it over to Andre 3000 and he put his thing on it and the rest is history.
Marvin Sparks : It's obviously very different to what you've released before. What made you take a risk and go in this direction?
John Legend: Well it wasn't really risky to make the song; I was just having fun at the studio and seeing where it went. Some people thought it was a bit risky to put it out as the first single `cause they were like 'Man, this is too different to what you done before. You're going to put people off,` but I was just like, 'You know what? This is a hit and I love it. I'm happy with it and I want to put it out first,` so I did it.
Marvin Sparks: What is the weirdest or best 'Greenlight' you've received?
John Legend: Some girls ask me to marry them when I meet them which is quite a green light!
Marvin Sparks : 'No Other Love' is the surprise and my favourite song. What made you do a Reggae track?
John Legend: People - when I go to Jamaica especially - everybody is always like 'John you need to do a Reggae track because your voice would sound good on a Reggae beat'. I tried it, it worked so I put it on my album.
Marvin Sparks : It sounds like authentic Reggae to me. I also played it to my Dad and he loved it. Do you listen to much Reggae?
John Legend: Not a lot but I feel like I get it and when I worked with Supa Dups it was natural. We did two songs in two days, which we were happy with. We put [No Other Love] on the album and the one I did with Buju Banton is a bonus track.
Marvin Sparks : I look forward to hearing the track with Buju. Is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with? Have you heard Tarrus Riley`s cover of 'Stay With You'?
John Legend: Yeah, I heard the re-make of `Stay With You` and it was very cool. Maybe we should do something together, me and Tarrus.
Marvin Sparks : Another song which stood out for me was 'It's Over' featuring Kanye West.
John Legend: I think that's going to be the second single. Pharrell actually wrote the song, he co-produced the track and you can hear his vocals on the background.
Marvin Sparks : You were quoted saying 'Again' was the best song you had written before you released Once Again. Do you feel you have bettered it on 'Evolver'?
John Legend: Yeah I said that shortly after I made it actually. I don`t know, `Again` is still pretty classic to me so I'll let the people judge.
Marvin Sparks : As your time as an artist you`ve won a lot as an artist from Grammy's, plaques, Estelle. Do you feel there is much left to achieve?
John Legend: I`m always trying to do better, be more successful, have bigger hits and keep ascending.
Marvin Sparks : Where do you see yourself 2 years from now?
John Legend: Making more records, probably putting out the 4th album and touring the 4th album.
Marvin Sparks : Will we see a John Legend clothing line or in a movie?
John Legend: Might do. You never know [laughs]
Marvin Sparks : Lastly, if you were working in a record shop, why should your album 'Evolver' be the one bought on the 20th October?
John Legend: [Be]Cause it's better than the other ones. That's all you'll need to know. I'll play you snippets. Snippet-for-snippet I'll win [laughs].